Officials in Pakistan have blamed coronavirus cases on returnees from Syria, despite Damascus not reporting a single infection.
Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Sindh province, Syed Murad Ali Shah, alleged that nationals returning from the Middle East had imported the disease.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report on the COVID-19 virus published yesterday also stated that all of Pakistan’s cases were “imported cases only”.
According to Shah, of 14 confirmed cases in Sindh province, eight had a travel history that included Syria.
In an interview with Geo TV, Shah said that “the eight cases were those that came from Doha. Before Doha, they were either coming from Iraq or Syria”.
Adding that “as soon as we found out about one of the cases, we tested all the people from the group, even those that didn’t have any symptoms. Some did not show any symptoms, but we still tested them, and they tested positive for the virus.”
Pakistan’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza said in an interview with Hum News that some of these cases came from “Iran, Iraq, Syria and even London”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday that coronavirus cases have been secretly recorded in several Syrian provinces, including Damascus, Tartus, Latakia and Homs.
The British-based observatory added that “doctors confirmed they were given strict orders from the authorities of the Syrian regime to remain silent and refrain from talking about the outbreak of the coronavirus”.
Syria has not announced any confirmed infections and has not released any information about the possible spread of the disease within its borders.
As a result of imported cases, Pakistani officials have raised fears over the government’s preparedness to combat the virus “because the provinces, particularly Sindh, have been left alone to take decisions, whatever it wants, but there is no guidance from the federal government, and this is dangerous”.
Adding that “the cases [doctors in Sindh province] have detected… had been cleared from the airport”.
Officials said that the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan had risen to 21 yesterday.
Pakistan has closed its overland borders and cut flights with China, suspended flights and business to or through Iran and closed a major border crossing with Afghanistan.